Employees claim Blue Origin is fraught with sexism, safety concerns
Several current and former Blue Origin employees have come forth to accuse the private space exploration company of rampant sexism, gender disparity, and fostering a toxic working environment. Worryingly, the employee group that includes engineers laid emphasis on the fact that there are alarming safety concerns with the New Shepard rocket that the company plans to use for commercial spaceflight. Here are more details.
The letter, filled with startling revelations, has been penned by Blue Origin's former head of employee communications, Alexandra Abrams, and 20 other anonymous current and former employees. It was published on whistleblower forum Lioness. The letter starts off by highlighting that "workforce gender gaps are common in the space industry" but at Blue Origin, the workforce is "mostly male and overwhelmingly white."
Additionally, the open letter mocks the company's mission of "enabling a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth." The employees alleged that a clique of senior leaders at Blue Origin tolerated sexism and let it go unchecked despite several complaints from employees. One such employee close to Bezos was only dismissed after he groped a female colleague.
As for safety, the letter claims that meetings leading up to Bezos's historic spaceflight were centered around "When will Elon or Branson fly?" Moreover, "Making progress for Jeff" seemed to overrule safety concerns that would slow down the schedule. Also, the letter alleged concerns voiced by women were "consistently shut down." Some employees felt the leadership's race to launch Bezos directly compromised flight safety.
Interestingly, Blue Origin issued a boilerplate statement in response to the letter. However, it made no attempt to refute specific allegations and revelations made in the letter. The company's response read, "Blue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide numerous avenues for employees, including a 24/7 anonymous hotline, and will promptly investigate any new claims of misconduct."
The letter claimed that in 2018, Blue Origin documented 1,000+ problems related to Blue Origin's rocket engines "which had never been addressed." But Blue Origin, however, maintained, "We stand by our safety record and believe that New Shepard is the safest space vehicle ever designed or built." These concerns notwithstanding, Blue Origin announced that New Shepard's 18th mission would launch on October 12.